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15 Oct 2002 : Column 294—continued

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries): I congratulate the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) on

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securing the debate. I appreciate both that it concerns autistic children and that my hon. Friend the Minister is winding up her remarks. However, may I draw one point to her attention? It has been raised by some of the families with whom I have been in contact during the past couple of weeks. I realise that the hon. Member for Buckingham was talking about only one young man, but will my hon. Friend to consider the point that children grow up—even if she cannot address it this evening? There is a problem in my area, and possibly elsewhere: children have support and services but as they go through the transition to adulthood they fall between two stools and the support and service back-up which was available when they were children suddenly disappears. There is a large gulf as they move into adulthood and we need to address that.

Ms Blears: My hon. Friend is right. The transition to adolescence is difficult in the best of circumstances, but

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for children with autism the difficulties are multiplied. It is crucial that there are good, high quality support services for young people.

We do not always turn our minds to young people as a group. We do things for children and for adults, but young people are sometimes extremely vulnerable and I shall certainly take my hon. Friend's point on board.

We have taken a number of positive steps forward. There is a good legislative framework and some excellent practical projects are under way. We have put in more investment; as I pointed out, the grant next year is about to double to #30 million a year. Together with that investment, we need reform to find new ways of working, especially with our partners in the voluntary sector organisations, but I hope that in future the experience of the constituent of the hon. Member for Buckingham will not be replicated and that more flexible and responsive services will be in place to support families and children.

Question put and agreed to.

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